LPO X NG: Dvořák Terzetto in C with soloists from the London Philharmonic Orchestra at the National Gallery
During the Second World War, London’s National Gallery became a safe haven of music when pianist Dame Myra Hess pioneered a series of classical concerts in the building during the Blitz. All the artwork was taken out for protection, and queues gathered between bombings to watch Hess and her colleagues perform. From 10th October this year, the gallery is uploading four short concerts to YouTube in collaboration with the London Philharmonic Orchestra to mark the anniversary of Dame Hess’s concerts. Filmed during lockdown, the concerts also mark the first time the National Gallery has ever shut in its 196 years of existence.
The first piece in the elusively advertised series is Dvořák’s Terzetto in C, a string trio for two violins and viola, featuring concertmaster Pieter Schoeman, Vesselin Gellev (Sub Leader) and Richard Waters (Co-principal Viola). Although the idea for the concert is lovely on paper, the execution is ropy.
Logistically, some elements are a little confusing for the viewer: the camerawork almost exclusively shows the players individually, so the audience does often get a sense of the ensemble. This is not helped by the fact that the players are socially distanced from one another, which gives the trio an awkward sense of separation.
In terms of balance, Schoemann plays a rather more soloistic role than in some interpretations of the Terzetto, and at times the ensemble is not as united as it could be. Nevertheless, the playing is very clean and there is a good conversation between the viola and second violin in support of the soloist. There are some gorgeous pianissimos, particularly towards the end of the second movement, which pick up into some nice chunky pizzicato in the third movement. In general, the trio have a lovely smooth tone with energy behind it, and by the fourth movement, they have settled in for a delicately powerful finale.
All in all, it is a relatively enjoyable performance, but the disunity of the ensemble and on-screen production is distracting. The combination of social distancing and close individual camerawork, as well as the players’ slight lack of cohesion, make for a somewhat disappointing experience.
For further information about the LPO X NG series and future events visit the National Gallery’s website here.